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Body of barista Samantha Koenig found in Alaska; charges possible

April 03, 2012|By Michael Muskal

Authorities are weighing whether to charge an Alaska man, now in federal custody, in connection with the kidnapping and death of Anchorage barista Samantha Koenig. Her body is believed to have been recovered Monday from a local lake.

Tests are still being conducted on the remains found by a team of divers in Matanuska Lake north of Anchorage, but authorities are confident the body is that of Koenig, police spokesman Lt. David Parker said by telephone Tuesday. The family has been notified, he said.

“Investigators believe Samantha died within hours of her abduction,” Chief Mark Mew told reporters at a news conference Monday night. “Investigators further believe the person responsible for Samantha's death acted alone, and we are confident that we have that person in custody.”

The suspect in Koenig’s death is Israel Keyes, 34, who entered a not-guilty plea when he was arraigned March 27 on federal fraud charges. Keyes, who was returned to Alaska from Texas -- where he was arrested -- is charged with access-device fraud for allegedly making cash withdrawals with a stolen credit card.

The case has shaken Anchorage. Koenig, 18, was last seen on a surveillance tape Feb. 1 about 8 p.m. leaving the midtown Anchorage coffee shack where she worked. She was being led by a man with a weapon.

In the following weeks, Koenig's family distributed thousands of fliers showing pictures of the missing woman and offered a reward for her return.

Police called the case a kidnapping, and Mary Rook, the FBI's special agent in charge, told reporters that the abduction appeared random.

“Investigators found no direct association between the abductor and Samantha or any member of her family,” Rook said at the news conference. “I believe it was largely the dissociative nature of this crime that so perplexed investigators, at least initially.”

Investigators said they are continuing to seek out witnesses who may know something about the movements of Keyes' white three-quarter-ton Chevrolet pickup, which was seized after he was arrested. Keyes is described as the owner of a construction company.

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michael.muskal@latimes.com

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